1. current PhD study:
A critical study of experimental moving image historiography
and media archaeology in Hong Kong (tentative)
This study draws attention to the critical historiography of experimental moving image and culture in Hong Kong by adopting a media archaeological approach. A genealogy of Hong Kong media and material culture with the technological, social, and cultural turn from the late 1960s to the present shall be demonstrated by closely reading the archival materials of Hong Kong's experimental moving image and related fields. Furthermore, the configuration of dominant historical narratives and discourse of Hong Kong culture needs to delve into the capacity and entanglement of media technology and material culture and their roles as active agents in formulating Hong Kong culture. This study, therefore, proposes a new theoretically grounded lens to look into the heterogenous historiography of media and material culture in the Hong Kong context by deploying Foucault’s concept of “history of the present” and other critical concepts of material culture, in which the condition of material existence, power relation, and knowledge mapping in the past that form the discourse, systems of thinking and cultural practices in the present will be studied. Accordingly, the key objective of this study is to situate experimental moving image in the assemblage of media technology, material culture, cultural historiography, and cultural studies deploying an archaeological account. By excavating the discursive traces of media technology and its relation to artistic practices in the past and in parallel to the current circumstances, this study also offers a critical survey to outline the multiple narratives of Hong Kong (techno and material) culture as a genealogical epistemology.
2. Cultural Cold War, alternative media, and technological practices
“A Critical Study of The 70s Biweekly and Its Political Cinematic Practices”
The 70s Bi-weekly: Autonomous Media, Social Activism and Alternative Cultural Production 1970s Hong Kong, ed. Lu Pan, Hong Kong: HKU Press, Forthcoming.
“Investigating Hong Kong Alternative Cinema: The Formation of Cinephilias in the late 1960s”
Modernism/modernity, special issue: Global South Cinephilias, ed. Rielle Navitski, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press, Forthcoming.
24/3/2022 [Presenter] “A 1970s Film Collective: Phoenix and the Experimental Cinema of Hong Kong”, in the panel of Crime, Eros, and Intellect: The 1970s and the Making of Modern Hong Kong in Film, organized by the annual conference of the Association for Asian Studies 2022.
The Cold War context profoundly shaped modern Hong Kong culture. In the 1970s, in particular, clusters of publications from different ideological camps blossomed and competed. An influential film group, Phoenix Cine Club, was founded in 1973 to revitalize the experimental film culture of the late 1960s and to promote collective film practices by providing a platform for the screening and production of experimental cinema by young and amateur filmmakers. It created an alternative space for the show, circulation, and reception of experimental cinema and nurtured a group of filmmakers that later became known as the Hong Kong New Wave.
A closer look at the activities of the Phoenix Cine Club reveals experimental cinema as a significant component in local cultural production. It provides insights into the political and social realm of Hong Kong in this era of transition. This period’s clusters of publications also shed light on the many political and artistic associations of the Cold War and their negotiation with colonial governmentality. This paper, therefore, will not only deal with local cultural activism. Still, it will also provide an analytical tool to examine the meaning of experimental cinema in a specific socio-political context. In short, this study brings the perspective of experimental cinema to bear on the mainstream account of Hong Kong’s cultural and historical trajectory in the 1970s. It examines how a film collective like the Phoenix Cine Club shaped Hong Kong's experimental cinema.
12/7/2021 [Presenter] “Youth Politics after 1967: An Examination of the Political Re-enactment in Beggar (1970)” in the panel of Hong Kong during a Previous Age of Global Crisis: Politics and Society in Post-1967 Cinema, Society for Hong Kong Studies Annual Conference 2021, organized by Hong Kong Studies Association.
In the history of Hong Kong experimental films of the late 1960s, the youth generation, particularly the editorial group of The Chinese Student Weekly, has played a crucial role in fostering the creation and discussion of the works. After 1967, the film section of The Chinese Student Weekly turned to a localist perspective, which also changed the representation due to their viewpoints and social sentiment. One of the critical experimental works that reflected the turning point of 1967 is Law Kar’s work Beggar in 1970. This work portrayed a lost youngster who became a beggar and wandered around the city. A leading figure of the 1966 social movement— Su Sou-chung (蘇守忠), performed as this lost youngster after his discharge from prison and reacted to the colonial violence.
This paper aims to articulate experimental film's visual politics and political re-enactment with youth politics after 1967. It also tries to discuss the discursive change of youth politics after 1967 by examining the performativity in Beggar through the lens of colonial governmentality.
12/12/2020 [Presenter] “From amateur to experimental: a study of Ho Fan’s experimental moving image art,” Hong Kong Studies symposium on Hong Kong and Visual Arts, organized by Hong Kong Studies Association.
In studying the local art history of Hong Kong in the 1960s, the standard narrative fell into the frameworks of Western modernists and Chinese nationalists, which confined the fundamental readings and discourse of constructing Hong Kong art history. This tendency neglected the creation and circulation of experimental moving image art by individuals and art clusters starting from the mid-1960s. These practical cinematic practices were framed as “amateur” in public. Until the 1970s, these creations were legitimated as the framework of “experimental film.” This trajectory of the cultural discourse change revealed how the concept of experimental moving image art was constructed during the Cold War and colonial context of Hong Kong in the late 1960s. This paper attempts to re-examine the discourse of Hong Kong art history in the late 1960s through the lens of the making and visual politics of experimental moving image art and the shaping by the interplay between the Cold War and colonial governmentality. One of the crucial examples, Ho Fan, who was a local photographic artist in the post-war era, created experimental moving image works, including “Exercise one" (1966) and “An ordinary people in a metropolitan” (1966) and transgresses between the sector of film and art. I shall discuss Ho Fan’s experimental practices in the late 1960s as the critical research subject of this paper to investigate how experimental moving image art played a vital role in the mechanism of cultural production in a socio-political context.
3. Hong Kong and Asian documentary
13/8/2022 [Presenter] “Drifting from present to the past: reconfiguring an alternative discourse of Hong Kong history in the recent political documentary,” XXVIII Visible Evidence 2022, held at University of Gdańsk, Poland.
The political praxis has intertwined with the complex historical narratives in the documentary of the Global South since the post-colonial age. Hong Kong, as one of the prominent examples, has been a contested realm with interweaving political ideologies and international power struggles, which led to the intricate narrative of history, particularly after the unprecedented Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill Movement in 2019. While there is an urgency for us to search for the diverse discourse of Hong Kong history, two documentary films, Blue Island (2022) and Never Rest/Unrest (2020), have delineated an alternative route to the other account of Hong Kong with the peculiar visual narrative and roam between documentation and reenactment. This conversation aims to discuss the capacity of formulating an alternative reinvention of Hong Kong history by mediating the two political documentaries. The use of re-enactment of Blue Island unfolds the vibrant cultural imagination and reclaims the agency to perceive historical events through the lens of social turbulence. At the same time, Never Rest/Unrest adopts a personal perspective to undergo the social movement in 2019, in conjunction with archival footage of the handover in 1997, marking a critical turning point in Hong Kong history. Through the prism of this conservation, we aim to underline the positioning of documentary in reproducing the historical discourse with diverse visual narratives and reenactment, which can help connect the understanding between the current social movement and the history of Hong Kong.
18/2/2022 [Presenter] “Green Team and Video Power: a comparative study of independent video activism and collective formation in Hong Kong and Taiwan,” Multiple Decolonialities and the Making of Asian Commons, organized by School of Humanities, Nanyang Technological University.
In 1986, due to the intense political repression, a group of youth in Taiwan used hand-held videos to document the social movement. It formed an independent video group Green Team before the ending of Martial Law. They circulated the video as an underground mode to resist the monopolization of the state media. The works by Green Team looked into a series of political movements and happenings in such a time of social turmoil in Taiwan, which were absent or misleading in the representation of the official news reportage. Three years later, a group of Hong Kong youngsters embraced the notion of freedom and democracy by using video to record the dispersed social movement in Hong Kong, particularly the housing issue. They formed a group called Video Power right before the Tiananmen Incident. These independent video-making practices and the formation of collectives emerged in a critical time of history, constituting public citizenship to engage in the socio-political trajectory and suggest an alternative narrative to the official discourse through the participatory mode of media apparatus.
This study shall examine the correlation between Green Team and Video Power regarding making new citizens and the public in these two Asian cities through video activism on the edge of the historical and political shift. These two collectives demonstrated a collaborative role in reproducing the political discourse and transforming the documentation into participation. More than the image politics entailed in video representation, this study will also discuss the collective formation of video activism. Some of the members of Video Power formed v-activist later and reshaped the mode of video activism, while no specific model resembled Green Team later in Taiwan. These two cases will explore the format and practices of video activism.
4. Archiving culture and archival practices
31/5/2022 [Presenter] “What makes the dispersed narratives in Global South: An Ethnographic Study of Alternative Archives in Hong Kong,” Eye International Conference 2022, organized by Eye Filmmuseum in Amsterdam.
This paper aims to examine two alternative and independent archives — VMAC by Videotage and a newly developed archival project of Hong Kong independent documentary- to study the archiving process of non-feature films in conjunction with the shaping of film history and the cultural politics in Hong Kong. Facing the threat of cultural disappearance of the diverse cinephile, these two archives have played the crucial role of demonstrating multiple forms of archiving and developing an audiovisual archival culture in Hong Kong. These two examples outline a specific articulation of socio-political condition with the archival culture in a larger structure of the Global South, which shed light on an “other film heritage” along the geopolitics. This study shall be delineated in an ethnographic approach with my participation and observation in these two archives.